Yesterday was the beginning of a brand new, and hopefully for all of us, bright new year!
I hope you’re feeling hopeful. I hope you’re ready to look forward to and embrace the fresh possibilities God has laid out before you!
I’ve been wandering around (like I usually do at this time of year), muttering to myself: New Years resolutions? Why are they necessary? No one keeps ’em. I can’t really think of any… Do I have to? What am I planning to do with my new year? Oh…dear…
Words from the Lord? A word for the new year? …You have GOT to be kidding! (I don’t have one. I’m not even looking for one).
Oh, and then the big one crept up on me and surprised me on December 31st: what are you doing for New Year’s Eve? How are you celebrating a new year?
And I realized with surprise that I wasn’t planning to DO anything, and then I realized that this made me surprisingly happy!
I stayed home. It was quiet. I ate supper with Mom and Dad and we watched Wheel of Fortune, and I solved the puzzles quicker than the contestants, which made Mom think I should apply to go on the show!
That was fun to think about, at least for a few moments. To believe that I could go there and do that, and maybe even win, even though I know that I would be so ill from chemical exposure if I tried, long before I reached their studios. And then my brain would be toast, and I would look like an idiot standing there with not a useful thought in my head or correct word coming out of my mouth!
I have no problem laughing at myself under the right comic circumstances, but–I think I would hate looking like that much of an idiot.
What if’s are only fun until they run into hard reality.
I realized today because of something someone on Facebook said (that they meant as a major put-down of Bible believing Christians), that I am a happy, healthy, whole person with an emotionally independent identity. And I am only that way because of Christ working in my life!
AND I realized that this is not just a good thing, but this is a tremendously important, exceedingly awesome and wonderful, AMAZING, even INCREDIBLE thing, and that I ought to share it with someone!
And then, I realized, I need to share this revelation with you!
I haven’t always been this way.
…Do you ever really beat up on yourself? I have in the past. I tend to occasionally even now. I’m working on that.
I am not financially independent, and haven’t been since…well, since I was conceived. I had help going through college. I got married before I was done with college. I worked some before my son was born and later when he was a toddler and preschooler, but–I was never, ever, not even once, on my own financially. This has always bugged me some. And it’s been a reason to beat up on myself.
Given what has happened, unless great miracles occur, I may never be financially independent now! But I want to be. I keep trying to work toward that, although most days I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, especially if I’ve gone out of the house and been in public spaces filled with everything that messes me up physically.
This frequent encountering of the things that make me ill leaves me physically dependent on others. And I hate that–and it’s easy to beat up on myself too, for venturing where I can’t really handle the pollutants. Except, I’ve got to live and there are tasks and errands that only I can do. And other things I want desperately enough to do that I am willing to pay the toll.
I have had to accept that there are situations where I’m going to encounter substances in sufficient quantity to make me feel unwell. I have had to accept that sometimes I will be a few days recovering, and not much use to myself or anyone else until I’ve gotten past the worst of it. I have had to learn not to beat myself up over this as doing so won’t make any of it better.
I have had to learn to grant myself grace.
And lately I have been discovering the differences between financial dependence, physical dependence, and emotional dependence.
I have always, for thoroughly human reasons, defined myself in relation to those people I am closest to and depend on the most.
I have clung to those relationships in a way that hasn’t been very healthy, down deep in my psyche where no one else sees. I needed my parents, then I needed my husband (and after I developed my chemical sensitivity issues, boy, how I needed him). And then, I needed my parents again, and–I’ve even at times clung to my kids.
You may not realize that, from hanging out with me. Outwardly, I may appear to be very independent!
But if you’re at all healthy yourself, then you understand why need–even normal, human emotional needs–can be unhealthy and destructive, especially when other factors intrude, like a marriage going hopelessly over the edge, like in a divorce–
Christians aren’t supposed to divorce. We’re supposed to work things out. I needed things to work out. I needed my marriage to be good. If it wasn’t good, if my marriage failed, then…I was not a good wife or a good Christian, Anyway, ‘everyone’ said so, and because I had allowed myself to be defined by these things and they were vital to my identity, I believed that everyone was right who said so.
I most especially needed to be told I was doing the right thing.
The failure of my marriage was therefore inescapably my fault and I owned it. Boy, did I ever–and my faith in God was damaged because I couldn’t keep my marriage together.
I had also, with desperate fervor, fought beyond my ability of endurance to keep my marriage, so I wound up in a state of utter nervous exhaustion and was broken and demoralized–and–by the time I realized I absolutely HAD to walk away and save myself, I was a complete physical wreck!
It has taken me a very long while to realize and accept, not that I didn’t make mistakes, but that there was nothing I could have done that would have been so right and good that it would have fixed my marriage. It was unsalvageable. And–if it had been salvageable, the mistakes I did make wouldn’t have mattered in the least.
Isn’t that wild?
Even if I’d done everything correctly. Even if I’d anticipated every surreal turn and twist of fate–at the end of it, I would have still been divorced.
I needed to be needed, too… and then I found myself in a situation where other people’s needs had emptied me out emotionally and physically, and I was ill and had no more to give. And they were empty and ill, too, and had no more to give either–
And because I was now a “bad” Christian and to all appearances a failure as a wife and maybe even as a mother, the only people who came to my rescue were my immediate family.
And I still had to go on, putting one foot in front of the other. To be brutally honest, for so many years now, all I’ve been doing is marking time until illness or accident finally claims my life and I could with reasonable relief give my last gasp of breath, because then this nightmare of misery and failure would finally have a period put to it. It would at least be over.
I realized today that I’m not really living there any more!
I have reasons–good reasons, too–to hope and to live. And they aren’t bound up in my identity vis-a-vis anyone else.
I don’t need anyone else. Not in that way. Not ever again.
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE my family and I want to spend time with them! Financially and physically, I really could not do without their help and support.
I miss my kids when I don’t see them. I look for opportunities to hang out with them.
But they do not define who I am. My ex doesn’t define who I am. My divorce also doesn’t define who I am, and I do not have to live in failure as a “bad” Christian because I’m divorced.
I am happy and at home, and at peace in my own skin. I’m good company to myself. And I think it’s sad and hilarious, and totally ridiculous that it has taken me nearly forty-seven years of life to arrive here!
I’ll tell you a little secret: the whole time I felt like everyone else, even sometimes my own family, was beating up on me, there was God, standing by, ready and willing to comfort me.
And never once did He tell me I was a bad Christian, or that I had to fix it all somehow. Not even once.
He just came close and loved me.
I am celebrating a new year as a happy, healthy, whole person with an emotionally independent identity because of Christ working in my life!
And I have this to say to you:
Please don’t believe the lie that you have to let your relationships define who you are.
Let God define who you are!
You’ll be much happier and healthier, because He loves each of us with an everlasting love. And in Christ there is power to overcome sin, there is hope and healing, there is forgiveness, there is grace and mercy, and there is above all else, life.
And that is what I want for myself more than anything else this new year, and what I hope and pray for, for you, too!